Monthly Archives: March 2008

Branding and corporate identity

Branding was strictly a subset of marketing when I started my marketing career in 1958. It was hardly ever practiced by business-to-business marketers, and certainly not by small companies.

Corporate Identity was a different matter. Any business was encouraged to develop one, particularly if your stock was traded on an exchange. The corporate name, logo, stationery and annual report were the main elements of a corporate identity. And if you had a building, your signage became a part of your ID. And if you had a large ad budget, part might be set aside for “corporate advertising”.

Today there’s little emphasis on corporate identity as a lone discipline. It’s been replaced by corporate brand, which can also be called the masterbrand. Many of the principles and activities of product branding and of corporate identity programs were adopted and integrated into the corporate brand.

The firms who served corporations in either product branding (normally ad agencies) or corporate identity (usually graphic designers with business sense) have changed as well over time.

Today there a couple of dozen highly regarded branding consultancies. Most are global in scope. Some evolved from corporate identity firms of long standing. Others were offering market research and counsel about packaging goods branding. Now the “branding” industry is huge. You’ll find a dozen substantial practitioners even in a dusty ole cow town like Denver.

Branding and corporate identity have merged and grown. Today, the corporate brand development is a vital activity, even with smaller companies that, someday, want to be big ones. Today, in many companies, marketing is actually a subset of branding. How things change over time.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Naming tip: number 63 in a series

Here’s how to construct an entirely new brand name.

One type of coined word name is the morpheme construct.

A morpheme construct is formed by combining groups of letters, often existing prefixes, suffixes and roots, into new words.

A morpheme is defined as the smallest component of a word that contributes meaning or grammatical function. That includes syllables and single letters. A single letter may be inserted as a transition between two syllables to make the new word easier to pronounce and/or spell. (Magitor). Syllables could be existing prefixes, stems or suffixes, or they may be newly arranged letter groups.

To construct morpheme-based names you’ll need a comprehensive list of prefixes, roots and suffixes. You can download these lists from several linguistically-oriented web sites. You might want to try the Medical Assistant web site for a comprehensive list of roots, prefixes and suffixes. A Dictionary I have found useful is called Word Stems by John Kennedy. It is also helpful in finding additional meaningful word parts.

Now you just pick those morphemes with meanings you wish to associate with the brand and “mix and match”, sometimes with existing words, sometimes with letters that have acquired a meaning or connotation (e, x, o), sometimes with other morphemes.

But be careful. An important aspect of morpheme constructed words is that they must be pronounceable. In fact, they should border on the familiar because people have an aversion to coined words until those Names have acquired a meaning for themselves. This may take a little time, but may be particularly fruitful in the long run. Look at Google as an example.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

http://www.medicalassistant.net/glwordlist.htm

Brands that make you scoff

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I’ll see a new commercial or hear a new brand name or have an experience with a brand and just have to scoff.

I usually scoff by actually snorting. Out loud.

Usually there’s such a gap between the pronounced claim and reality that all credibility is lost. Either that or they say one thing and do another. Or they’re just spouting jibberish.

My last experience of this kind?

When Opex Communications cut off my voip phone service and then wouldn’t let me re-up. They had moved their billing department to California but forgot to inform me or my bank. My e-payments were not being accepted at the old address, but were not being returned, either. So Opex, without informing me, just cut off service.

Then the customer service people were no help – I found out later that was because they hadn’t been informed. When I finally reached someone in the know, it was too late. They had sold my “spot” on their network to someone else and there weren’t anymore. They weren’t even sorry.

I went with Vonage.

But I remember the Opex slogan on their home page: “Unmatched best-in-class customer service”. Snort. Scoff.  I wonder what class they’re competing in?

So that’s my story.

Do you have one? Or two? If so, please share them. Just add a comment below.

Let’s have some fun at their expense.

And drive home the point that the best and strongest brands life up to their claims.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Naming Tip: Number 61 in a series

When tacking and fusing coined brand names, be sure they join in a “natural” way.

First, explanations of tacking and fusing. Tacking occurs when you add a new syllable, either suffix or prefix, to an existing word to create a new word. I’ve used this technique very successfully – Profitology and Ideatrics are examples. Fusing takes two existing words and “fuses” them together as I did with Wow and Power to create “Wower” Tools.

But these tactics only work well if the new words are easily pronounceable and easy to spell. If you stumble over them when saying the word, or need to pause when they occur in a sentence you’re reading, they just won’t resonate with people.

An example, by a guy who should know better, is the book title, Brandscendence, a fusion of “brands” and “transcendence”. The author, Kevin A. Clark, even trademarked the name. But it’s too long for a single word, it’s awkward where brand(s) and “scendence” meet. There are four consonants in a row that usually don’t appear together. I’ve owned the book for a couple of years and still have to stop and go through a little mental exercise to get that name pronounced correctly.

You shouldn’t have to do that with a brand name.

So when you fuse or tack, be sure the new word follows common grammatical alignment.

PS, it’s a fine book. I recommend it.

Martin Jelsema

Differentiating your brand is strategic, developing an USP is tactical

I believe you should think of differentiation as a company’s strategic position that drives everything: what products are marketed, what markets are targeted and which brands to compete against.
 
It’s not a specific appeal or offer. It’s not a copywriting technique. It’s not an ad campaign.

Yet I recently watched a video of a “marketing guru” claiming differentiation and positioning had to do with making a unique offer  in a unique way. Those are tactics. They may arise from a strategic differentiation, but they do not drive the business. They are not a brand’s foundation.

Undoubtedly this speaker was steeped in the idea of a unique selling proposition (USP) being the key to successful marketing. But the USP is a tactic, usually a claim. Hopefully it will reflect the difference you have determined to call your own: a position you can own and defend. But that differentiation is more than a certain product quality and subsequent benefit.

The USP is a concept originally made famous within advertising circles by Rosser Reeves, then CEO of Ted Bates Advertising, in the late 1950’s. The agency was famous for driving home a USP with frequency, consistency and an in-your-face presentation. Most famous campaign was probably for Anacin. It featured a hammer banging on a cartoon head to dramatize the problem, then as the diagramed “head” took Anacin, the screen flashed “FAST, FAST, FAST” to demonstrate its USP.

But to really differentiate a company and their offerings from their competitors, a company must make that differentiation a core commitment of the company and the company’s employees. The company and/or its branded products come to stand for that particular differentiator in the minds of consumers. It must identify and adopt this unique, meaningful and desirable position, and keep it in mind with every strategic and tactical decision the company makes.
  
It is the measure for all activity: how will this activity we’re considering affect our market position, our differentiator?

Some who’ve set good examples include:

FedEx with overnight deliveries guaranteed…
Netflix with no-penalty movie rentals by mail…
Southwest Airlines with a fun, no-frills flight…
Target with good design combined with low prices.

All of these examples have their differentiation as a driving force for their respective organizations. Employees and consumers know what makes the companies unique.
  
One could define the differentiator as the “corporate culture” expressed through words, image and deed. It begins as the corporate vision and is then translated and transformed into the BRAND and the brand promise by keeping true to the position.
 
Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Naming Tip: Number 61 in a series

When tacking and fusing coined brand names, be sure they join in a “natural” way.

First, explanations of tacking and fusing. Tacking occurs when you add a new syllable, either suffix or prefix, to an existing word to create a new word. I’ve used this technique very successfully – Profitology and Ideatrics are examples. Fusing takes two existing words and “fuses” them together as I did with Wow and Power to create “Wower” Tools.

But these tactics only work well if the new words are easily pronounceable and easy to spell. If you stumble over them when saying the word, or need to pause when they occur in a sentence you’re reading, they just won’t resonate with people.

An example, by a guy who should know better, is the book title, Brandscendence, a fusion of “brands” and “transcendence”. The author, Kevin A. Clark, even trademarked the name. But it’s too long for a single word, it’s awkward where brand(s) and “scendence” meet. There are four consonants in a row that usually don’t appear together. I’ve owned the book for a couple of years and still have to stop and go through a little mental exercise to get that name pronounced correctly.

You shouldn’t have to do that with a brand name.

So when you fuse or tack, be sure the new word follows common grammatical alignment.

PS, it’s a fine book. I recommend it.

Martin Jelsema
 

Brands engender long memories

People remember bad experiences with a brand and assume the experience will be just as bad the next time. I’ll bet you’ve also had those kind of experiences when you swear you’ll “never go back there again”” and mean it.
 
But there’s another side of the coin: When you have a positive experience with a brand, you tend to continue to favor that company for years and years, even to the point of overlooking more recent weaknesses.
 
Case in point: I once purchased a go-go mutual fund, but they made a mistake in processing the paperwork. I wrote the CEO telling him their error had cost me several hundred dollars. By return mail, I got a letter of apology and a check for the amount I figured I had lost. Wow! That doesn’t happen with many mutual funds! Anyway, the fund hit some bad times and lost much of its value, but I felt a great loyalty to the firm and did not liquidate.
 
So here’s the point: long memories work against poor performing brands, and work well for well-managed brands. This is the basis for the rebirth of some old-time product names that have been neglected by their owners until they discovered many people still had fond memories of the brand.
 
I’ve even gone back to Vaseline Hair Tonic recently. And I sometimes shave with Molle if I can’t find Barbasol.
 
The moral is still, “Brand Smart from the Start”. And then just be consistent.

Martin Jelsema

Greening the brand requires credibility

Just like most claims in support of a brand, there needs to be credibility. And like so many today, those claims aren’t proven.

I guess that’s why they’re called claims, instead facts.

Lately I’ve become aware of the many marketers claiming their product/process/materials to be eco-friendly. But then you read the fine print, or you find there is no fine print. No substantiation. Or weak substantiation.

The research says “Green is good – people would rather buy green products”. So let’s give them what they want. Here’s an example.

I bought a bottle of water today (there was no bubbler in the building!) The maker, Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water Co., a division of Nestlé, boasted their water was contained in an “Eco-Shape Bottle™”. Then there’s a line stating, “Our bottle looks and feels different because it’s purposely designed with an average of 30% less plastic* to be easier on the environment. The asterisk points to this line, Versus comparable size, leading beverage brands.”

I took physics in high school. I remember something about volume. I seem to remember that the surface area of a container might change shape but would be constant for a given volume of liquid. So the only way this bottle could contain 30% less plastic and contain the same volume as other bottles would be that it is a third thinner.

Now this may be the case. But they didn’t say so. They made their explanation laborious. For those who didn’t study and think this through, it’s incredulous. It’s almost laughable. Specially designed to look and feel different and be eco-friendly.

My point: if you have to explain a complicated concept, or if you must just make an unsubstantiated claim, perhaps it’s not in your best interest to promote that feature.

Or just admit you’ve found a way to make flimsier bottle that’ll still do the job, and that we’ll save 30% of our materials cost. Ann yes, it might have a favorable impact on the environment.

By now, you’ve probably guessed I’m after Andy Rooney’s job on 60-Minutes.

Yes, I may be cynical. But again, I want my brand to stand the test of cynics and then be loved by them, in part for my honest and simple presentation of the facts.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975